Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Rapture - the ultimate blasphemy

I want to start with an apology for things being so quiet here. I keep meaning to write and I have notes and some semi-completed posts but nothing is ready for posting. I've also started a private blog where I record all manner of ideas and thoughts  and personal impressions in a quite rough way. It will remain private open only to one or two others. For the astrologically minded it's also interesting to note that I have had a lot of transit activity in my 12th house of late and Jupiter remains there throughout the year so this kind of hidden writing world is probably an apt reflection of these transits. In addition, I also have been busy with a number of community and writing projects. The writing projects are all due for publication down the track next year again reflecting the the transit pattern too.

But I'm taking time out from all of that and writing a public post here today because of the international brouhaha over the  end of the world predictions of a silly elderly rich man in the US, Harold Camping (!). He declared that the Rapture would take place at 6pm on Saturday 21 May and from what I can make out, progressively time zone by time zone. What's more because he is a rich man he spent millions of dollars in an international advertising campaign promoting his message. By the Rapture, he referred to the idea, abroad in Protestant evangelical and Pentecostal movements that there will be a wholesale lifting off from the planet of the true believers, the saved, the born again to be taken up to Heaven by Jesus, body and soul (but apparently without clothing), there to wait until the Second Coming when they will return, a kind of immortal elite, to rule the planet alongside Jesus for a thousand years. Camping (!) also declared that the world itself would end in October and that for the vast majority of us left behind the coming months would be a dire time of disasters, misery and oppression before the Second Coming wipes the slate clean and we are all, presumably, cast into Hell. From his timetable, Camping (!) clearly holds a kind of pre-Wrath Rapture position unlike most Rapture believers who hold a Pre-Tribulation or Mid-Tribulation view. Camping (!) is also innovative  in that he teaches that the main trigger for the Rapture is the amount of homosexuality in the world. That it didn't happen I presume means that we queer folks have to work harder to make sure that this planet is riddled with homosexuality through and through.

Many people might think Camping (!) a fool and wonder why I would waste my time writing about this. He is a fool and the millions he spent on his promotion campaign could have been much better spent. He would have made a much better testament to his Lord if he had followed the Gospel dictum to sell all he had (no small fortune) to give it to the poor and embrace a life of poverty and prayer and works of mercy. Instead he traduced the gospels utterly and brought Christianity into complete disrepute. The most depressing thing is that he has played into simple media binaries, in this case Christians vs unbelievers/secularists/atheists/humanists with Camping (!) himself as a key exemplar of what Christianity is all about. And of course Camping (!) is an exemplar of a type of Christianity or I would say a perversion of Christianity that has taken root in the US and, with the US global hegemon, is spreading throughout the world, like a noxious toxic bloom. In my opinion it's a heresy of the worst order, a vile pernicious heresy that perverts and inverts the central Christian message. Thanks to Camping (!)  unfortunately a large proportion of of the world's population believe that this pernicious theology is normative, traditional Christianity. It's not, it's a 19th century aberration that took root in the United States in the mid-19th century in a time of major transformation and upheaval.

It's all based on a single word in the Christian scriptures. It's found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and in the Greek in which it was written, the word is harpagesometha, 'we shall be taken away' or 'we shall be caught up', derived from the Greek verb harpazo. In the Latin translation the word is rapiemur, from the verb rapio. In the passage, Paul is talking about the very end, the final things of the world, the Second Coming and he says that when it occurs, first the dead will be raised up from their graves and then the living will be caught up from the earth to meet Jesus as he returns at the end of the age, which Paul and the audience for this letter considered imminent. The issue that is being addressed here is not an elaborate end times scenario, that we see in the modern Rapture cult but rather the concerns by some in the Thessalonian community that those who have died will  not participate in the final moment of the Lord's return, or even, possibly by some, that those who are living who are alive at the Second Coming are in some way better or more fortunate than those who have died. This passage is written to disabuse  these Thessalonian Christians of such concern, or conceit. And the thing is, its context is the last things, the last day, the end of the world as we know it, the transformation and reconciliation of heaven and earth, that has always been key to the Christian proclamation. And throughout Christian history that's how it's always been understood and still is for the vast majority of the Christian world.

However, in the 19th century, that changed. In the 19th century we see the rise of industrial capitalism, a process which began in the late 18th century. The UK was the main centre of this process, a time of major dislocation, uprooting and misery for the masses. It was an 'apocalyptic' time and, of course, the great apocalyptic event heralding the new industrial age was the French Revolution, which brought to an end the ancien regime in Europe based on centralised dynastic monarchies, quasi feudalism and commercial capitalism. The ancien regime's death throes outlived the spectacle of Republican France, forming, generating all manner of strange religious movements. As I said, the eye of the cyclone that was the new industrial capitalist order was the UK and it was in the UK that we get two figures who develop elaborate eschatological systems on the belief that end of the age was imminent, Edward Irving and John Nelson Derby. Both of them in their thinking deployed a standard Protestant trope that the entire existing Christian church in all its forms was thoroughly corrupt and had departed from its true form which had to be restored. Ironically it meant that Irving, a Presbyterian/Church of Scotland minister embraced a form of apocalyptic High Church Catholicism, founding the Catholic Apostolic Church. Irving apparently taught a form of multi-staged end times theology which included a taking away of the saved at some time before the second coming. It's Derby, however, who stands behind the elaborate end time patho-theologies which underpin all the Rapture talk today. Derby, in contrast to Irving, was an Anglican/Church of Ireland priest, who seems to have had strong anti-Catholic views and held a Calvinist theology. He went the other way to Irving, leaving his Church too, but founding the highly evangelical Plymouth Brethren movement. Derby developed a highly elaborate historicalised schema called Dispensationalism as a frame for his end time millennialist Rapture theology. Key to Derby's thinking is the grossly heretical idea that the Divine plan behind Jesus' earthly mission somehow failed because he was rejected by the Jews and that the Church is a kind of Divine afterthought to the main game, which is the re-establishment of a Jewish kingdom ruled by Jesus. We live now in the Church Age, the age of Grace, but God still plans to fulfil his overall plan which is to establish the millennial Jewish kingdom. So in the Last Days, when the Jews have been restored to the land of Palestine, the Church Age will be ended and the Church itself taken away in the Rapture before the final Tribulation takes place, in which the Jewish people will be given the option again to accept Christ as the Messiah. Only a handful will, the rest being destroyed by the Anti-Christ. But at the Second Coming those Christian Jews will join the returned Church to rule with Jesus for a thousand years on earth. It's important to remember that the Derby's Church represents a minority of Christians. Roman Catholics, and presumably Orthodox Christians too, are not considered to be true Christians and so we have no stake in his Rapture and presumably neither do most mainstream Protestants either. Derby was a Calvinist and has no problem in regarding the great mass of humanity, Christian and otherwise (including the bulk of the Jews) as damned. His theology is one based on a thoroughgoing hatred of humanity.

Derby's ideas went west across the Atlantic where they found rich soil in the US. It's Protestantism had a strongly Calvinist flavour (I regard Calvin as the spiritual godfather of the US - it's whole culture both secular and spiritual is fully imbued with Calvinist thinking) and was also experiencing massive social change due to immigration, westward expansion and the blizzard of capitalism too. His ideas went viral, spreading through a variety of millennial and other Protestant sects and taking root in established ones too. Derby's thinking is canonised in the Scofield reference Bible which was published in  1909. It printed a commentary alongside the biblical text that was informed by Derby's Dispensationalist thinking and by being included in the Bible gave it an authority it might otherwise not have received (and didn't deserve). It also unmoored it from Derby's own work and so by spreading throughout much of the US it linked up with all manner of ideas that Derby himself might have regarded with alarm. It also generated a variety of schools of Rapture thought, pre-Tribulation Rapture, Mid-Trib, Pre-Wrath, plus a variety of perspectives as to how many Raptures or comings of Christ there would be. Derby taught one rapture or two Second Comings but there are folks who teach multiple raptures for different groups of people along the timeline of the end times. And there are different schools of thought as to how many people and who get raptured. The Left Behind series of novels reflect the view that all children are raptured along with the believers so that a couple of billion or so people get carried away including the Pope of the time (a notion that would, no doubt, appal Derby).

I discovered this Rapture world  when I was doing the PhD because unsurprisingly its also marked by virulent homophobia. When I first heard about the Rapture, I was seriously taken aback. It really is nothing but a 'get out of gaol free card' theology. It is predicated on a Calvinist notion of complete rupture between the cosmos and the Divine. A key notion is that the full Tribulation with Anti-Christ can't take place until the Church is taken away because it brings to an end the Age of Grace when the Holy Spirit is abroad in the world. With the removal of the Church the Holy Spirit is also removed from the world. From a Catholic perspective, such a notion is incoherent if not grossly heretical in its dichotomy of Creation and the Divine. In Catholic understandings Creation is imbued with the Divine as stained glass windows are imbued with the light on which they depend for their effect.  The Rapture doctrine contradicts sacramental theology in every way. In a Catholic perspective, God is grace and so a notion of an end to grace is bizarre, a diminution of the deity.Furthermore the Derbyite notion that Jesus' mission has to be rebooted requiring the removal of the Church and that his life and death and resurrection marked some kind of failure or derailing of the divine plan, is Christologically flawed, thoroughly heretical. It marks a complete contradiction of the entire Christian tradition in an even more radical way than any 'liberal' or 'modernist' Protestant theology of Jesus, that the exponents of rapturism usually loudly deplore.

But it is far worse than that. I found one or two sites that I started following and one, in particular, Five Doves, I've remained 'loyal' to, primarily for its entertainment value. I've written about them here before. It maintains a forum, The Latter Day Letters, to which believers share hopes, fears, and rapture/end times news and speculations. Most of it is pretty appalling, not least for its homophobia, but several things strike me as someone who thinks I understand a bit about the Christian tradition in its fullness across time and in its diversity. While the contributors not only evince an ignorance of that tradition and lack of even the most basic curiosity that would make them explore that tradition in its fullness, they seem quite willing to blend their 'theology' with a, to me, surprising blend of pop culture items such as TV shows and films. Many of them feed uncritically off New Age and UFO sites, especially, the most paranoid of them, but then give them a unique dispensationalist twist. And I should point out that the Rapture has gone so viral that it has even torn loose from Dispensationalist framework to re-embed itself in UFO and New Age contexts. The UFO cults give a lot of scope to Rapture thinking, except here instead of Jesus its the Space Brothers or Rael's Elohim who will come down in their space ships and save us - or some of us, anyway. I first encountered this phenomenon in the early 80s when I met a popular, psychic aura reader who proclaimed the imminent arrival of the Space Brothers who would take many of us away from the planet (but not all) while it was cleansed of the mess we'd made of it. He went so far as to say that they had taken away some people already and as proof cited a then recent earthquake in Italy where many hundreds or thousands had died. They weren't dead they'd been taken away.

This psychic alerted me to something that is a hallmark of all such Rapture cults, Christian and New Age alike. These really are death cults of the worst sort. If you read the Latter Day letters at Five Doves, you'll be struck by the yearning to get out of this place, to 'go home' as some of them put it. Home is heaven but usually there's only one way to get to the heavenly realm and that's by death. These people are crying out for  and yearning for death. They mask that by their belief that they will be transported body and soul but the reality is that death is what they desire, it's a deflected suicidal mentality. Because of course when you read the letters you soon detect that for many, though not all, life is hard, it's a struggle and it's often made worse because of the type of religious beliefs they hold. Many of their family members or neighbours or workmates don't share their rapture/end times beliefs (even though they might also be Christians, and it's more galling if they are than not) and so make fun of their beliefs or react against the proselytising that these people are attempting. And so for many of these rapture believers not only is life a struggle but it is also marked by conflict too over their faith. That drives their yearning even more. The Rapture becomes not just a get out of gaol free card but it's also a vindication and even reward for what they have put up with.

Vindication for them and pay back time for the scoffers and unbelievers too. The other side of the rapturist cults is a very nasty schadenfreude. The Left Behind series of books and films is not really an evangelical tool so much as a vindicatory vehicle for the confirmed believer. Both the books and the films are too awful in their execution to seriously entice anyone to join this sort of  religion. The books have been on bestseller lists for a long time but I think very few unbelievers, Christian or otherwise, would bother parting with their cash to purchase them. Their main audience has been the rapturists themselves and so they actually serve as a vehicle of vindication. Their rapturist audiences get to vicariously enjoy not so much the rapture itself as the opportunity, as pre-rapturees, to witness the sufferings of the left behind and be confirmed in their own special spiritual status. Fred Clark has repeatedly made this observation on his long running commentary on the series. I think it's not just the books but the doctrines themselves. They are built on schadenfreude and hence their appeal, especially in a rawly capitalist society like the US. By its very nature capitalism requires victims or losers and the more untrammeled it is the greater the number of those who have been screwed over. Rapturism with its arcane secret knowledges, its conspiracy theories (much of the material on Five Doves could provide inspiration for a stack of X-files series) plus its promise of ultimate escape from a cascade of horrors that will engulf everyone else not saved promotes the ideal sort of false consciousness that capitalist societies need to prevent serious critique and transformation. 

This schadenfreude is what I find most disturbing and it also represents the most heretical inversion of Christian tradition. From the very beginning Christinaity has celebrated the divine generosity that underpins the creation. The entire cosmos represents an act of divine graciousness, generosity. In Christian theology God has no need of the creation but creation would not exist without God, the overflowing lifegiving love of God, and a God that does not give up on the creation either but ultimately becomes incarnate in a human person to come down to our level in order to offer us friendship. God is love, John declares, and those who love know God. Jesus on the cross represents the ultimate kenotic self-emptying of God to demonstrate the divine solidarity with and friendship for the creation, for humans, for all of us.  Such divine friendship and solidarity has consequences not least in the lives of those who respond to it and Christian history is full of examples of people who answered the call to instantiate in their own lives the call to divine friendship. They lived that friendship directly and very  practically and often at very great cost for their lives, taking up their crosses and following their Lord. Many of these people are commemorated in the calendars of saints of the various Christian communions, many lived humble lives and their stories have been lost or they were the companions of these saints. But they stand in striking contrast to the rapturist cults whose members get excited at any news of  earthquake or war, who actually anticipate and hope for another major Middle East war because that will  be sign that they soon will be out of here. Their theology is marked by a hatred of humanity and of the creation in which we live. They have replaced the traditional Christian God of superabundant love and friendship with a narrowly vindictive deity of schadenfreude. The God of rapturism is not the God of Christianity, although it has been dressed with Christian drag, it's an idol built on human vindictiveness and selfish petty resentments. That's the sort of spirituality and religious ethos cultivated by rapturism. 

The Rapture is kind of oddly akin to much of the discourse around euthanasia, which again rapturists deplore. It could be said that much of the euthanasia discourse represents not so much a fear of death but a fear of dying and seeks an intervention to circumvent that. Rapturists likewise yearn for death, to get out of here and 'go home', but they don't want to experience dying. Instead they want divine intervention to circumvent the messy dying process and translate them instantly into the next world, body and soul. It's a divinely assisted suicide they seek and worse, it has resonances with the suicide bombers of various Islamic fundamentalist groups. By their collective suicide the rapturists know the full horrors of the tribulation will be unleashed on the rest of us. Their yearning for their own deaths is also a yearning for our suffering which they know will be unleashed by their rapture. And in some of the Latter day Letters that payback desire is expressed quite clearly.

Harold Camping (!) has done more to traduce Christianity and bring  it into disrepute than any Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins could ever hope to achieve. The anti-religious movements have started a blasphemy day, which I think originated in the US where so much of this silly thinking seems to  originate, the shadow or inverted mirror of the original. But Harold Camping (!) has performed a blasphemy that a Hitchens or Dawkins could never  hope to match. I have termed Rapturism a heresy of the worst order. I would go further and declare the Rapture doctrine and all the attendant Dispensationalist schemas in which its embedded, the ultimate blasphemy. Back in the 2nd century St Irenaeus of Lyon declared that the glory of God is humanity fully alive. Rapturism rejects that fundamental Christian principle in favour of vindictiveness and suicidal schadenfreude and hence tries to debase the Christian vision of the divine that Irenaeus and so many other Christians have celebrated over the centuries.

On Saturday I put up this status update on Facebook:
It's Rapture day! Silly idea. The world won't end today except in the usual way, sadly, for too many people. I hope for not too many, today, and for none of you who I love.
I chose this deliberately because that morning I'd also learnt of the death of a friend a couple of days before. Death comes to us all. We will all die, a fact our society tries to deny all the time. So again it's no surprise that a notion like the Rapturist fallacy should prove popular because it also tries to deny the fact of our own deaths. But Christianity celebrates a God who so loved all of us and wanted to be our friend that this God accepted death to live in full solidarity with us, to meet us on our level. My friend who died wasn't religious and didn't believe in any sort of God but I hope she has been found and eagerly welcomed by this God who so sought our friendship as to be willing to die shamefully under the boot of power and  is regularly betrayed by the Howard Campings (!) and so many other religious functionaries and charlatans and homophobes. It's a shame I can't believe in eternal damnation and like Dante, and people my own Inferno with popes and preachers and tele-evangelists. But my God is much bigger than that and I have no right to ever dare diminish God to my own need for vengeful satisfaction and vindication. To do so is an act of idolatry and diminishes my own faith and betrays the friendship this God offers to us all.



11 comments:

  1. While Camping may be the ultimate idiot, to propose Rapture doctrine is the ultimate "blasphemy" is to risk leaving readers between two impossible poles. It's extreme to limit the Rapture idea exclusively to Thessalonians. Something of the kind is already well entrenched in the Matthean apocalyptic parables which point to a time when one is taken and the other left and to their woe. The parable of the Ten Bridesmaids for example is quite nightmarish.

    If Irwing, Derby etc represent some kind heresy that is only because they are rejecting another kind of heresy let into the church since around the time of Augustine and which it is is controversial to suggest is the true doctrine. For Catholicism it may half officially have become so but it is hardly biblical. At Christ's ascension he postpones or refuses to answer but does not wholesale reject the question about the time when he will restore the kingdom to Israel. There is never any idea that Israel cannot and must not be one day restored - the disciples would accept the OT forecasts at the end of days Israelites returning to their land after a long exile. All this got pitched out by Augustine who wanted what has been called a Replacement theology in which everything prophecied for Israel is symbolized away and applied to the Church whose advance into the world is the Millenium - a dangerous doctrine behind a lot of Church triumphalism.

    As to grace, it's well known that Catholicism emphasizes works as much or more than grace, though perhaps the Pope in recently declaring Luther was basically correct about grace has begun to limit this emphasis. However the "work" we are supposed to do according to John's gospel is precisely to believe. And the same gospel insists upon working (mot least to proclaim) while it is still day because the night comes when no one can "work". According to St Paul in Corinthians "today is the day of salvation". Throughout the whole NT there is the idea the time of grace is a dispensation only, and its chance can be lost and its time run out. One can against this propose a universalism and claim it as a theological tradition, which it somewhat is; but it is also extraordinarily hard to defend on any biblical basis. I think you must realize this really, which is why to various eccentricities of dispensationalist doctrines and mentalities (I agree that in some cases there is a suicidal cast to it all) you present what in itself is a rather extreme position.

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  2. You are indeed a different type of Christian, I can't say I disagree with you on the crutch of you point, the homophobes I suppose you had to mention was a little over the top, but I suppose you have suffer with that, but overall a good post

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  3. Thank you, Anonymous, I might seem a different type of Christian but I think I'm closer to traditional Christianity, as it's been understood and practiced over the many centuries than the Rapturists. It's the Rapturists who really are out of line, a major deviation, but unfortunately they are so big in the US and it dominates so much of our world that it appears to be the other way around

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  4. I meant of course that the US dominates so much of our world

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  5. Michael,

    Great post. I learned much from it. From what I know on the subject, the book of Daniel was the first written account of the idea. This written around 164 BCE, but written as though it was written as far back as 5oo BCE. That there is a jumping point (if you will) where the writer no longer can write with confidence of the knowledge of the past, and thus must write about what really would be the future. And that the writer of the book of Daniel was really telling the story of how the Jewish people would not be able to overthrow the Greco-Roman tradition & rule, and would only do so with divine intervention. The Maccabean revolt would not succeed without the help of the divine. According to him (the writer of the Book of Daniel), Michael and his Angelic armies swept in and won the battle for the Maccabees.

    From what I understand, the apocalyptic ideals all stemmed from the book of Daniel, and the Jewish-Christian followers and readers of the book.

    This of course is much different than the argument you laid out in your blog. I agree 100% with your idea that a more modern apocalyptic/rapture scenario flourishes here in the states because of the social culture of capitalism and our governments constant quest for global hegemony, and empire. An empire eerily like the Roman Empire, and in an atmosphere eerily not unlike that of the Jewish cult for nation.

    I leave you with this thought...Ronald Reagan, GWB, and Sarah Palin; all true believers in the rapture. Never have so many people hand their fingers on the triggers of what could bring the end of times for billions of humans.

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  6. Hi Anonymous 2, and thanks for your feedback. I should point out that I'm not condemning apocalypticism per se but only this vile Rapturist get out of gaol free theology as you find in the Left Behind or that Camping(!) obviously subscribes to.. What's most curious about Daniel is that it's very popular with the Rapturists but you wont find anything about the Rapture there and likewise in Revelation (or any other ancient Jewish or Christian apocalypse such as 2 Esdras or Apocalypse of Peter). As I said in the post Rapturism is based on one line in Paul and in which the word Rapture does not even appear.

    There was a view once that Daniel marked a new apocalytic style of literature and consequently a rupture from the older prophetic traditions. I disagree with that. Daniel does what the other prophetic texts do i.e. build up a portrait of the prophet's work in the past before turning to the business at hand which is to pass on a message to an audience in the future, the contemporaries of the text itself. You'll find it in Isaiah, the Twelve, 1 Enoch etc.

    In Daniel, there's a whole suite of stories to establish the prophets' bona fides, even more in the Greek versions. Then comes the main message which is a prophetic commentary on the events of the war against Antiochus Epiphanes in the early second century BCE and its aftermath. It's basically giving a God's eye view of these events

    The book of Revelation is likewise a prophetic commentary on events of its time, here the first Jewish War against Rome and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Its purpose is to highlight that the end of the Temple is not a disaster because there is only one true Temple and that is the Christian community gathered together around the Eucharist.

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  7. And I plan to write more about prophets and apocalypses later this year

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  8. It's nice and useful to have snappy titles, but making Rapture the ultimate "blasphemy" is a bit controversial and leaves one uneasy. Worse than blaspheming the Spirit, or a form of same? I almost sense a touch of insecurity here of the sort we may all feel in the face of the strange and different - which undeniably any Rapture doctrine is.

    Strictly speaking, only the word Rapture, not the doctrine itself, hangs on a single word in Thessalonians. The general idea behind it is, like it or not, too entrenched at some level as a mystery in the apocalytpic parables which forecast a time when one is taken and the other left, or as in the nightmarish parable of the ten bridesmaids, half the company left in woe.

    Whatever precisely moderns may have made of the early teachings they mark an attempt to re-establish a lost doctrine against the kind of replacement theology of Augustine which applied all prophecy regarding Israel to the Church thus making the Church era the Millenium itself. Far from being positive and an improvement this gave carte blanche to another kind of "blasphemy", if we must use the word, namely Church and Papacy militant and triumphant with authority to rule the world and persecute Jews.

    It was all a blind denial of the dispensationlist type expectations of the first disciples, which Christ did not reject, namely that he must return and a kingdom on earth must be established by him. It's the disciples' last question at the ascension and while its timing is not given there is no condemnation of the expectation, an expectation mainstream Christianity has simply disposed of at its convenience. If this disposal of a different dispensational vision had not been so wholesale, possibly a more balanced treatment of the orignal teaching with which "Rapture" belongs might have been preserved rather than giving us the sensational or, as in the case of Camping half crazed versions arisen from a point of suppression and repression.

    Ironically too let's recall that the gay symbol Ganymede was widely employed by pagans as symbol of a kind of higher life, resurrected or mystical. The idea of being snatched away is not uniquely Christian, it is more widespread and archetypal; it is just that Christianity has endured to retain the idea and a kind of medieval Catholic and modern Protestant liberal theology have insured it will endure at only the margins. I think the subject is a complex one.

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  9. [Interesting stuff, Jottings. Found this gem while netting. Malcolm]

    PRETRIB RAPTURE – HIDDEN FACTS !

    How can the “rapture” be “imminent”? Acts 3:21 says that Jesus “must” stay in heaven (He's now there with the Father) “until the times of restitution of all things” which includes, says Scofield, “the restoration of the theocracy under David’s Son” which obviously can’t begin before or during Antichrist’s reign. ("The Rapture Question," by the long time No. 1 pretrib authority John Walvoord, didn't dare to even list, in its scripture index, the too-hot-to-handle Acts 3:21!) Since Jesus can’t even leave heaven before the tribulation ends (Acts 2:34,35 echo this), the rapture therefore can't take place before the end of the trib!
    Paul explains the “times and the seasons” (I Thess. 5:1) of the catching up (I Thess. 4:17) as the “day of the Lord” (5:2) which FOLLOWS the posttrib sun/moon darkening (Matt. 24:29; Acts 2:20) WHEN “sudden destruction” (5:3) of the wicked occurs! The "rest" for "all them that believe" is tied to such destruction in II Thess. 1:6-10! (If the wicked are destroyed before or during the trib, who'd be left alive to serve the Antichrist?) Paul also ties the change-into-immortality “rapture” (I Cor. 15:52) to the posttrib end of “death” (15:54). (Will death be ended before or during the trib? Of course not! And vs. 54 is also tied to Isa. 25:8 which is Israel's posttrib resurrection!)
    Many are unaware that before 1830 all Christians had always viewed I Thess. 4’s “catching up” as an integral part of the final second coming to earth. In 1830 this "rapture" was stretched forward and turned into a separate coming of Christ. To further strengthen their novel view, which the mass of evangelical scholars rejected throughout the 1800s, pretrib teachers in the early 1900s began to stretch forward the “day of the Lord” (what Darby and Scofield never dared to do) and hook it up with their already-stretched-forward “rapture.” Many leading evangelical scholars still weren’t convinced of pretrib, so pretrib teachers then began teaching that the “falling away” of II Thess. 2:3 is really a pretrib rapture (the same as saying that the “rapture” in 2:3 must happen before the “rapture” ["gathering"] in 2:1 can happen – the height of desperation!).
    Other Google articles on the 181-year-old pretrib rapture view include “Famous Rapture Watchers,” "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," “X-Raying Margaret,” "Edward Irving is Unnerving," “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” "Walvoord Melts Ice," “Wily Jeffrey,” “The Rapture Index (Mad Theology),” “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers,” “Roots of (Warlike) Christian Zionism,” “Scholars Weigh My Research,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” "Pretrib Rapture Secrecy," “Deceiving and Being Deceived,” and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" – all by the author of the bestselling book “The Rapture Plot” (see Armageddon Books).

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  10. None so intolerant as the tolerant.

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  11. It's not about tolerance. If people want to believe that they are going to be carried off on some sort of magic cloud, that's fine. But it's not what Christianity is about and never has been and it's not being intolerant to a) point out that fact to them and b) to make sure that other people know that's not Christianity either

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